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On the State of On-Going War in Pakistan

On the State of On-Going War in Pakistan

Has the war in Afghanistan spread into Pakistan? Yes; the circumstantial evidence certainly points to just that. The argument for, and fact of, war rests partly on the strategy through which combat in Afghanistan and Pakistan is being conducted. That strategy is precisely this-counterterrorism, which relies heavily on night raids and drone attacks;that strategy is now being applied in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, simultaneously, with some success. (The more reason to carry on in just that way.)

President Obama’s recent announcement to draw down 33,000 American soldiers out of Afghanistan by the summer of 2012 effectively announced the end of the counter-insurgency strategy championed for the last two years by a revolving set of field commanders and generals who have each slogged through the brutal work of quelling what is fundamentally a civil war. The counterinsurgency driven mission, adopted only in 2009, was nothing less than a broad charge of nation-building in the midst of a civil war-Pashtun tribes against all others– with all the costs and none of the benefits that the concept suggests. In all, 100,000 troops were pushed through into Afghanistan and were concentrated in Southern Afghanistan to help build the fabric of what some hoped would be a lasting peace in Afghanistan and to maintain whatever peace could be scrounged up on the ground there. At the same time the Obama administration re-engaged with Pakistan diplomatically, rearranging U.S. foreign policy toward a more results directed carrot and stick alliance. That alliance has deteriorated without relief, even while the civil war in Afghanistan has flared up without abating.

Now that civil war boiling over in Afghanistan is increasingly breaking out in its Eastern regions, the mountainous stretches of lawless terrain that border Pakistan. As part of their strategy the Taliban are increasingly attacking U.S. assets in the East. Consequently, the combat mission in Afghanistan is shifting to the East of Afghanistan, nearer, and into, Pakistan, the rough tribal villages and towns where the U.S. suspects al Qaeda leaders are hiding.

Consider that counterterrorism–the combat strategy consisting of night raids, human intelligence and drone strikes–is precisely the same strategy that was used in the infamous Abottobad night raid that netted Osama bin Laden. Leon E. Panetta, the man who’s taken on the mantle of U.S. Secretary of Defense, announced on his first visit to Kabul that he will work hard to wipe out al Qaeda. No doubt many of the military missions in pursuit of that end will be conducted inside the sovereign territory of, Pakistan. Given this there can be no question that the counterterrorism strategy will be increasingly operationalized in Pakistan, even if covertly, to find al Qaeda’s remaining leaders. In so far as the war in Afghanistan is a stalkers war, a predators war, the same war is being fought in Pakistan.

The U.S invaded Afghanistan with the mission zeal to find, incarcerate or kill leaders of al Qaeda leaders. Certainly patience in America for the ten year war in Afghanistan has faded. Much of the enthusiasm behind the combat mission in Afghanistan died away with the death of bin Laden. However if, like Osama bin Laden, other top al Qaeda leaders are found in Pakistan, Capitol Hill might strike out in great anger and formidable vengeance. For, even without discomfiting revelations that Pakistan is actively hiding al Qaeda, it is patently clear that the U.S. suspects that Pakistani military and political leaders have long-standing associations with al Qaeda. As a result, the U.S, intends to split the difference between its foreign policy goals and the domestic policy goals of the government in Islamabad, for whom intransigence is apparently the status quo policy.

This war-which will not answer to that name- is increasingly being laid out in strategic circles. The recent news that the U.S. is deferring aid payments to the Pakistani military, also suggests that the U.S. is counting to salutary benefits of keeping the Pakistani military in the dark.

Is this all too much, too wild a flight of fancy, a over-reaching takeoff from the mind of an American writer. Perhaps. But there can be little doubt that the teeming street in Pakistan is waiting for just such a war, fought in just the terms you’ve read laid out.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link:

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